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By TTT contributor and subscriber James Keen (‘jimtheoracle’).
The contemporary Internet age has caused a seismic shift in the role of the football fan in the context of running a football club; or rather the perception of that role by the fans themselves. As society has loosened up and the demographic of football supporters generally has changed, we now demand to be proactive consumers of a product, consulted on and kept informed of all that goes on behind the Shankly gates. As capitalism in the modern world has developed since the sixties it has recast all of us citizens as consumers and customers. In modern business parlance, Liverpool Football Club now has customers rather than fans.
That shift in emphasis does change the dynamic between the club and the supporters – often in a largely positive way. Clubs today cannot afford to take the fans for granted, legally or financially, in the way they perhaps have before. Fan welfare and creating a positive and safe experience are the tenants of the modern match-going concerns. But of course the match-going fans only account for a small percentage of our worldwide support. We live now in a post-Taylor report era, the era of Sky and the Premier League. The old first division was a very different beast to the modern Premiership; it had no idea what it would become and seems a lot less self-conscious than the vast entertainment industry we have now. Setting itself up as a rival to pop music and movies, the English top division has learned to sell its product all over the world. But in the modern world we demand interactivity, we deplore passivity; this is the age of social media and consultation. Our fathers and grandfathers stood on terraces and watched versions of themselves play the game. Now we sit in vast coliseums and temples, and worship heroes and titans as they compete in the arena. But all of this interactivity and expense implies a sense of entitlement amongst supporters and creates demands of a certain level of treatment and service.
With the Internet at the centre of many of our lives now, suddenly everyone is empowered to have a voice. It is almost a non-negotiable aspect of the modern world that we are constantly asked what we think. Regardless of experience or knowledge, as consumers of media we now create content. We are all a few mouse clicks away from having a Twitter account, and from there we can all bombard the world with our thoughts and dreams, hates and prejudices or simply sit and read other peoples’ thoughts. To an extent there is no limit to what we can say in the virtual arena. The law is struggling to keep up with the new and fast-moving ways in which we can stretch the boundaries of acceptable comment, whilst at the same time balancing our outrage at being offended, which has taken on a far more sinister undertone in recent times. The news has changed in that time as well, vox-pops are not new but the media now demands input and viewer-created content (after all they have 24 hours of TV to fill each and every day). News programmes have tweets in their coverage, Youtube has become a way for ordinary members of the public to track and film events and share them with the world. That includes the news media that would in the past have created that content for themselves, entire programmes are set aside for Youtube clips and they play a very large role in the online life of a newspaper. In short “Our” views are important and seemingly valued by the society we live in. It seems that there is no barrier to my views on any given subject being presented as being of equal importance as that given by an expert in the area being discussed. Radio phone-ins perhaps give the best example of the conflict between knowledge and emotion and the extent to which emotion appears to be winning that fight. Twitter is like a hysteria button to these discussions; the minute a discussion enters Twitter, the sane voices are quickly drowned out by the screams of outrage, the pompous taking offence and the childish sniggers of the Trolls as they run away after napalming the conversation with their lack of irony and wickedly blunt wit.
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